Tips for Lake Stewards
Stewardship reflects an understanding that what we do on land affects water quality. It may seem like the polluted runoff from one household, yard or acreage is insignificant, but it cannot be ignored because the sum of thousands of scattered pollution sources is the main threat to lakes and streams.
1. Maintain or plant buffer strips. Buffer strips are vegetated areas adjacent to streambanks and shorelines that help minimize runoff to a stream, river or lake. The roots bind the soil, preventing erosion. The vegetation uses nutrients carried by runoff, preventing them from reaching the lake or stream, thereby reducing algae growth and keeping our waters clear. Buffer strips should include a variety of plants, shrubs and trees, preferably native or existing vegetation. The wider the buffer, the more benefits it provides. Buffer strips can be attractive, still allow easy access to the water, and needn’t obstruct views.
2. Limit paved surfaces. Sidewalks, parking areas, roads and driveways prevent water from percolating down into the ground and increase the amount of polluted runoff reaching streams and lakes. Instead, use grasses, natural ground cover, gravel, and rock to allow rainwater to slowly seep into the ground.
3. Avoid or limit the use of fertilizers, herbicides & pesticides. Landscape with native plants well-suited to our climate and pests to reduce the need for irrigation and chemical applications. When chemicals are used, follow the directions and use no more than the recommended amounts. More is not better.
4. Dispose of hazardous materials properly. Paint, oil, cleaning supplies, and other toxic chemical products should never be disposed of on the ground or down a drain. Purchase only the amounts you need, recycle when possible, and take advantage of special household hazardous materials collection days.
5. Maintain a healthy septic system. Check your septic tank every year. Pump it when floating solids and sludge fill about 30% of the tank (average of 2–3 years for year-round residents, 5–6 years for seasonal residents). Conserve water to help your system work better and last longer. Don’t use additives. They are of no benefit and may harm your system by clogging the drain field.
6. Get involved with other concerned citizens. Informed, collective action will yield great dividends. Join the Flathead Lakers today for clean water tomorrow! The Flathead Lakers is a nonprofit, grassroots organization, with over 1,500 members, working for clean water, healthy ecosystems and lasting quality of life in the Flathead Watershed. The Flathead Lakers provides leadership and a strong voice for protecting and improving water quality through advocacy, education and stewardship programs.